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Laboratory Communications

30/05/2022- Critical Folate reagent shortage until mid-July: please only request if clinically indicated

Due to an acute national reagent shortage, we ask that clinicians please only measure folate where there is an acute clinical need. Please also consider whether any test requests for folate could be delayed until reagent supply is restored (currently anticipated in mid-July).

We are likely to completely exhaust our reagent supply and require external testing from mid-June onwards. We plan to send folate requests to Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Laboratory in this event.

Please note that turn-around times for folate results may be longer as the test may need to be performed in batches to conserve reagent. Turnaround times are likely to exceed 24 hours once samples are being sent to Sheffield for analysis. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

As an aid, see below a summary of the indications of where haematinic requesting may be indicated. Please note this is not exhaustive and for guidance only.

Indications for haematinics requesting:

Suggested indications for B12 + Folate:

1.     Macrocytic anaemia

2.     Peripheral neuropathy

3.     Oral ulceration

4.     Unexplained cerebral decline

5.     Anaemia and hypothyroidism

6.     Anaemia and thrombocytopenia or neutropenia

Suggested indications for B12 + folate + ferritin:

1.     Unexplained normochromic normocytic anaemia

2.     ?malabsorption

3.     Anaemia and poor diet

Please contact the laboratory if you have any further questions.

10/05/2022 – Cortisol assay: cross-reactivity with Prednisolone

Please be reminded that there is significant cross-reactivity in our cortisol assay with many synthetic glucocorticoids, particularly prednisolone. Please be aware that when undertaking any investigations involving measuring cortisol in patients on prednisolone (including dynamic function tests), the measured result will have a significant positive bias and be unlikely to reflect the concentration of the native hormone. Please contact the lab for further advice or discussion

01/04/2022- Critical FT4 reagent shortage: change to test availability and turn-around times
Due to an acute national reagent shortage, FT4 will only be measured on samples with an abnormal TSH from Monday 4 April. FT4 will not be available to request directly from ICE, Meditech or via paper requests, but will be automatically added in the laboratory to samples with an abnormal TSH result.
If there is a strong clinical need for FT4 analysis on your patient, please contact the biochemistry laboratory directly.
Please note that turn-around times for FT4 results will be longer as the test will only be performed at Barnsley laboratory (as of 31.03.22), with weekend samples being batched for one analytical run on Sunday, except for clinically urgent requests 
This is a temporary measure and we hope to resume our normal procedure as soon as reagent stocks are back to normal. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

14/12/2021- Digoxin Changes

From 20/12/21 we will be updating our quoted therapeutic range for digoxin to: 0.7 – 2.0 ug/L.

This revised therapeutic range brings us in line with the NICE Clinical Guideline for Atrial Fibrillation (

There will be an accompanying text comment regarding digoxin concentration in patients with heart failure to reflect the narrower therapeutic window in heart failure:

“Therapeutic target of 0.5-1.0 ug/L in heart failure.”

For patients being treated for digoxin toxicity, please note that Digifab interferes with digoxin immunoassays, so there is no clinical benefit in checking digoxin levels after Digifab administration.


14/12/2021- Microbiology Antimicrobial susceptibility interpretation guidance

As from the 11/1/22, the Microbiology department will be reporting antimicrobial susceptibility results as per the updated guidance released by the European Committee on Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing (EUCAST). The new interpretations are categorised and defined into three susceptibility categories:

  1. S - Susceptible, standard dosing regimen: A microorganism is categorised as Susceptible, standard dosing regimen, when there is a high likelihood of therapeutic success using a standard dosing regimen of the agent.  
  1. I (High dose) - Susceptible, increased exposure: A microorganism is categorised as Susceptible, increased exposure* when there is a high likelihood of therapeutic success because exposure to the agent is increased by adjusting the dosing regimen or by its concentration at the site of infection.  
  1. R - Resistant: A microorganism is categorised as Resistant when there is a high likelihood of therapeutic failure even when there is increased exposure.  

*Exposure is a function of how the mode of administration, dose, dosing interval, infusion time, as well as distribution and excretion of the antimicrobial agent will influence the infecting organism at the site of infection

Please refer to the antimicrobial policy for further information. Alternatively, contact the microbiology department or senior clinical pharmacist if further guidance is required.

29/11/2021- Communication: eGFR and KFRE

In August 2021 NICE published an updated “Chronic kidney disease: assessment and management” guideline (NG203). This includes two new considerations for users of Blood Sciences at BRILS who request tests of renal function:

1) Removing adjustment for ethnicity from eGFR

 The guidance to adjust for ethnicity when calculating the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) in people from Afro-Caribbean ethnic groups is no longer deemed to be valid.

The NICE Committee agreed that adding an ethnicity adjustment to eGFR equations for different ethnicities is not supported by evidence from available studies, and, because the muscle mass varies widely between individuals within the same ethnicity, the adjustment may not be accurate for all individuals within any given ethnic group

In addition, NICE reiterated that eGFR creatinine may be less reliable in certain situations such as acute kidney injury; pregnancy; oedematous states; muscle wasting disorders; in those who are malnourished, have higher muscle mass, use protein supplements or those who  have undergone amputation. (Please note that although not specifically mentioned in NICE guidance, sports supplements, especially those containing creatine may also make eGFR creatinine interpretation less reliable.)

2) Kidney Failure Risk Equation (KFRE)

There is an update related to assessing the risk of patients with known CKD progressing to require renal replacement therapy.

NICE now suggest that adults with CKD are provided with a risk score, calculated using the 4-variable kidney failure risk equation (KFRE). The equation uses patient age, gender, eGFR and urinary Albumin to Creatinine ratio to calculate the kidney failure risk. The recommendation is that patients are referred for specialist assessment, should their 5 year risk from the calculation be greater than 5%.

The current version of our laboratory information management system (LIMS) is unable to calculate this score, but while we are addressing this, we will provide on ICE and the pathology website a link to the risk calculator on the NICE website. Please use this calculator where appropriate, according to guidance.

 As a result of these updates, from the 29th of November the comment appended to eGFR results on lab reports will be as follows:

“NICE no longer recommend any correction to eGFR for ethnicity. Please interpret with caution in patients with extremes of muscle mass, or other confounding factors. For more info see”

There will also be additional code linked to UEs results with the following comment:

“For KFRE calculator refer to: or a link on ICE.”


23/11/2021- Communication: Sample Transportation Reminder

For all users of BRILS please note that timely transport of samples to the laboratory is important in ensuring sample integrity and subsequent patient results. Can all GP and community users please ensure that samples are transported on the next available collection. Refrigeration of samples prior to collection can also affect sample integrity and may lead to spurious results so please do not store samples in a fridge prior to transport. Please see our user webpage for further information:


23/11/2021- Communication: Reminder- Phlebotomy Outpatients 

The Phlebotomy service is now appointment only and appointments can be booked by telephoning 01226 433969 between 8:00 and 16:50 Monday to Friday. Please note that the appointment line is very busy and often patients will have to try multiple times to get through.  We are aware of the difficulties and a solution is being looked into to improve the appointment system. We apologies for any inconvenience caused. 

21/10/2021- Communication: Changes to repeat Biochemistry requests for slightly haemolysed samples

BRILS blood sciences laboratories replaced their automated analysers in Autumn 2020. As a result of feedback from users about the impact that increased detection of slightly haemolysed samples is having on repeat biochemistry requests, especially for potassium, we are changing the haemolysis level at which a repeat sample is advised for certain tests. This will not have any impact on the clinical validity of results.

From 1st November 2021, you should see fewer repeat requests in slightly haemolysed samples for the following biochemistry tests:
• Potassium
• Creatine Kinase (CK)
• Uric acid (urate)

Please contact Cat Dibden if you have any queries about this change.

Published on Wednesday 30 May 2022 by Jayshree Sisodia 

The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust
Rotherham Hospital
Moorgate Road
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